Sugar crisis may trigger price hikes of processed food, beverages
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) on Monday warned of a possible increase in the prices of beverage and processed food products, saying the shortage in sugar supply in the country may force their members to adjust costs.
PCCI president George Barcelon told the Inquirer in a phone interview that there was an “urgent need” for the government to address the issue as many of their members were already affected by the shortage.
“Somebody told me that if there is no solution at the end, there may be certain factories that may have to slow down,” he said, adding that it may be already too late if the government’s only plan was to import additional sugar by October. According to him, they see importation as a short-term solution.
Correct importation plan
The Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship also said the government’s timing and decision to import a limited amount of sugar supply was correct, saying the measure would protect both consumers and sugar farmers.
“The importation plan that the president has directed is correct and can help us achieve a more inclusive economy. It will allow our small farmers to make a living,” Joey Concepcion, the founder of the nonprofit group’s advocacy campaign Go Negosyo, said in a statement.
Exhaust local supply first
Over the weekend, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he might consider importing as much as 150,000 metric tons of sugar in October if the current stock from local production and previous importations were insufficient.
“Before we again import sugar, I said, we should first exhaust the supply that’s here,” the president said in a vlog posted on Sunday.
“Maybe by October, probably when the supply that’s here in the Philippines is about to be exhausted, maybe we need to import—but only a little, not as much as the 300,000 metric tons that they’re saying before. Maybe 150,000 tons is big enough for the rest of the year,” he added.
He said there was enough supply of sugar locally and this, along with the 150,000 MT imported last May, could be used to stabilize prices.
Meanwhile, the controversy over a sugar import order has led to the resignation of another official, lawyer Roland Beltran, who said he stepped down as a member of the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) sugar regulatory board due to health reasons.
“This is without prejudice to any investigation that may be conducted in connection with the issuance of Sugar Order No. 4 s. 2022-2023,” he said in his Aug. 14 letter to Malacañang.
Another official quits
Beltran was one of the signatories of the order which would have authorized the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar. The Palace, however, described it as “illegal” since Marcos, also sitting as the country’s agriculture secretary and SRA board chair, did not authorize holding a meeting or issuing such a resolution.
Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, who signed on behalf of the president, later apologized and stepped down from his post.
Lawmakers have also pushed for the resignation of other SRA officials who signed the order.
House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Negros Occidental Rep. Juliet Marie Ferrer made the call as the committees on food and agriculture, and good government held a briefing on Sugar Order No. 4.
“This is just a briefing but apparently from the resource persons, there was a problem with the issuance of Sugar Order 4, and there were signatories who already resigned.
My question is, why are the others not yet resigning as a matter of delicadeza,” Castro said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JORDEENE B. LAGARE AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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